Former Minister of Industry and Trade Milan Urban became well known for supporting Czech companies, production of domestic cars and regular energy. Today he acts as a promoter and ambassador of electromobility and smart local energy.
You are the chairman of the non-profit association Clean Mobility, the president of the International Professional Chamber of Suppliers for Electricity and an advisor to the 1st Prime Minister for Industry, Energy, Foreign Trade and Clean Mobility. Isn't your new focus in conflict with what you pushed for at the ministry?
Certainly not. This is a shift over the last twenty years. While I was the minister after 2000, it was all about bringing Czech industrial companies back to the top in the production of high-tech cars. Today, the main challenge is to manage the fundamental change that is taking place in the automotive and energy industries. Conventional energy and the automotive industry are under great pressure due to environmental requirements and the fight against climate change. They are at risk of being overwhelmed by new competition, as demonstrated by American Tesla. But Czechs are extremely flexible, so I'm sure we can handle it. For example, at our automotive premier, Škoda Mladá Boleslav, we are on the right track to ensure clean and emission-free energy supplies.
In May 2006, as Minister of Industry, you signed an agreement with the South Korean company Hyundai on the construction of a car factory in Nošovice. It is still the largest foreign investment in the history of the Czech Republic. Does the current electromobility craze threaten our Czech factories producing cars with internal combustion engines?
You are either trendy in economy and you win, or you are behind - and you are losing. In the 1930s we were the world leader in the arms industry, sixty years later we dropped out of the game, but today we are quite successfully returning to it. The same applies to cars: we can either handle the social demand and thus the technical change, or we fail. And as I say, I have no doubt about the abilities of Czechs.
What specific projects are you dealing with today?
At a time when subsidies affect the free market, the state itself must be the leader of change. If we want a clean environment, the municipality must lead by example. That is why we have focused on the transformation and “making the Czech Post more green”, as it operates thousands of cars and buildings. We advocate that the cars be clean, emission-free – i.e. electric, running on hydrogen or gas. The same applies to the buildings that Czech Post needs - they should be as energy-efficient as possible. As a result, citizens of our republic will be those who will benefit from it for the most part: they will live a better environment and, moreover, will pay less for running a state-owned enterprise.
Does this also apply to other state institutions?
We have a project of low-emission regions, low-emission municipalities. If the state asks its citizens to build low-emission ecological houses, it is the state who must lead by example. In schools, in hospitals… So we are looking for energy savings, which will also save money for municipalities and regions.
Do I understand it right that you are mainly concerned with maintaining the competitiveness of the entire Czech Republic? Can our industry adapt to these changes?
We have already demonstrated such an ability. We entered this century with hopelessly outdated hardware and software, and thanks to our people (and foreign investments) we are making the most complex engineering products today, from cars to planes to robotic machines. The theme of the future is to connect smart energy with electric mobility: your house should be able to supply your car with energy cheaply. If we can make this, and I have no doubt we will, we really don't have to worry about our future. As I say, electromobility is simply an opportunity.
Milan Urban (born on 15th October, 1958 in Čáslav) was Minister of Industry and Trade from 2003 to 2006. He was also a deputy several times and is a member of the ČSSD.
He graduated from the School of Metallurgy of the Technical University in Ostrava and then worked as a technician at ČKD Kutná Hora. Later he transferred to the position of Production Deputy at ČSAO Čáslav. In 1991–1995 he worked as Head of the Department of Economy and Investment at the Municipal Office in Čáslav. Following this, until 1998 he worked in the private sector.
He joined the ČSSD in 1995 and three years later he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. In March 2003, he was appointed Minister of Industry and Trade and held this post until 2006.
He is married and has three children. In his free time he spends time doing sports, especially football, tennis and motoring. He chairs the FC Zenit Čáslav football club.